The Vegas Golden Knights had a hard-fought playoff series last May that went six games and featured multiple game misconducts, and suspensions. The Golden Knights won the series by being the better team in five-on-five play and by being able to neutralize Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The Golden Knights were able to win the series as a team against a team led by individual superstars.
The Golden Knights eliminated the Oilers on their home ice on May 14, 2023. Since the elimination, the Oilers are 2-9-1, tied for the lowest points in the NHL, and have the second-worst goal differential at minus-19. To make matters worse, the Oilers lost to the San Jose Sharks. In what seems like a desperation move, the Oilers waived goaltender Jack Campbell who gave up four goals on 16 shots in the AHL on Thursday night.
Are the Golden Knights to be credited for the Oilers’ decline?
It is a fair question to ask. The Oilers have not been the same team since being eliminated by the Golden Knights. If we are taking the glass-half-full approach, the Oilers were eliminated by the previous two Stanley Cup champions in the last two seasons.
The Golden Knights exposed a few things about the Oilers. They rely on their power play. If was not for last year’s record power play, the Oilers would not have been nearly as competitive. The Oilers defense is weak and goaltending is sub-standard.
Defense, goaltending, and coaching win Stanley Cups.
The Oilers do not have good defense or goaltending.
Is coach Jay Woodcroft at fault?
The short answer is yes.
The longer answer; it takes a complete buy-in from the players to commit to what a coach is trying to do. Is there a complete buy-in to Woodcroft in the Oilers’ locker room? Probably not.
Let’s pretend we were in the locker room during the first intermission of the Oilers’ loss against the Sharks on Thursday night. What could Woodcroft possibly have said during the first intermission? I can imagine there was not much to be said. Probably a simple, “Let’s stick to our system,” type of speech.
What about the second intermission? If I were an Oilers fan, I would hope for a more passionate speech from the coach. What I am more curious about is how players like McDavid and Draisailt react to a speech from Woodcroft.
Is Woodcroft completely at fault?
Of course not. This is where we shift gears to McDavid and Draisaitl. They are a big part of the leadership. Are they doing enough to create enough of a team environment? No one can ever question McDavid’s and Draisaitl’s skillsets. The Oilers are blessed with two of the top five or so hockey players in the world.
What can be questioned is if McDavid and Draisaitl are doing enough to assist in the development of young players.
The Oilers lack the depth to compete for a Stanley Cup. You would expect more from the third and fourth-line players on a team that gets to be around McDavid and Draisaitl on nearly a daily basis for eight months.
How can the Oilers be fixed?
One word, six syllables. Accountability. If Woodcroft is unable to hold the entire roster accountable for their poor play, then he needs to be replaced. If general manager Ken Holland does not see there being an accountability issue in Edmonton, then at least we know where the problem is coming from.
Did the Golden Knights break the Oilers?
One word, one syllable. Yes.